Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Bullying" - Spanish Cinema's Unremitting Chill

In Europe, 39% of all students suffer from "bullying". This figure feels like an exaggerated number, but this comes from official statistics. Spain's number is 1 in every 4 students. But its in the United Kingdom where it's most alarming.

Bullying is psychological despotism and scars the aggrieved party the rest of his life. In Josetxo San Mateo's 2009 feature, "Bullying" - the director weaves a propaganda that deals with this despicable phenomenon.


A mother and son tandem leaves their homeland for Barcelona where she is hired as a nurse. Together, they start a new life. But Jordi (Albert Carbo), who moves to a new school, is being picked on by campus meanie Nacho (Joan Carles Suau) and his gang. Several abuses later, the baddies are empowered by Jordi's helplessness. The bullying turns more severe as the perpetrator even invades Jordi's home (they are neighbors). Despite Jordi's bruises and a mauled dog, he keeps his silence.

The film is often times harrowing because it felt easy to just rat on the bullies. You don't understand Jordi's reticence. Jordi could have told his mother (who's seeing a shrink), but he disturbingly shuts down all avenues of help, which is a dilemma. He would even cover up his tormentors' misdeeds. Masochist maybe? But it leaves Jordi frozen with fear?

The film is a propaganda against the phenomenon with scenes showing TV news reporting about bullied kids. Elsewhere, an authority speaks against bullying in the school. I would have thought that the best messages are those not shoved down your throat. But its an artistic prerogative which is nonetheless noble. If Albert Carbo comes off perfectly awkward and ungraceful as Jordi, it is really Joan Carles Suau's Nacho (the bully) who reeks with unadulterated evil! And isn't it ironic that despite all those reminders from school authorities, Jordi wasn't able to overcome his oppressive fate? Now that is tragedy!

Nacho bears down over Jordi.

The tormentors face Jordi.

Mother and son

Joan Carles Suau pouts. (above and below)

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